Posted by: MTR | January 13, 2010

Those Who Knew Lincoln

Gettysburg: ‘Under God’ Inserted Long After Speech Given

We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Abraham Lincoln, closing the Gettysburg Address, according to the Nicolay Draft (see photo, below), one of two that he wrote on the day he gave the address. Neither draft contains the phrase, “Under God” . Delivered at Gettysburg on November 19, 1863 

Ingersoll: Ask Those Who Knew and Loved Him

“In making up my mind as to what Mr. Lincoln really believed, I do not take into consideration the evidence of unnamed persons or the contents of anonymous letters; I take the testimony of those who knew and loved him, of those to whom he opened his heart and to whom he spoke in the freedom of perfect confidence.”
Robert Green Ingersoll, who fought in the Union Army, “The Religious Belief of Abraham Lincoln,” (May 28, 1896)

Mrs. Lincoln: Mr. Lincoln Not a Christian

“Mr. Lincoln’s maxim and philosophy were: ‘What is to be, will be, and no prayers of ours can arrest the decree.’ He never joined any Church. He was a religious man always, I think, but was not a technical Christian.”
Mary Todd Lincoln in William Herndon’s Religion of Lincoln, quoted from Franklin Steiner, The Religious Beleifs of Our Presidents, p. 118

Mrs. Lincoln: No Hope or Faith in Usual Sense

“Mr. Lincoln had no hope, and no faith, in the usual acceptation of those words.”
Mary Todd Lincoln, to Colonel Ward H Lamon, in his Life of Abraham Lincoln, p. 459, quoted from Franklin Steiner, The Religious Beleifs of Our Presidents, p. 118

Holland Fabricated Lincoln‘s Piety

“When Dr. Holland asked Mr. Herndon about his partner’s religoius convictions, Mr. Herndon replied that he had none, and the less he said on that subject the better. ‘Oh well,’ replied Dr. Holland, ‘I’ll fix that.'”
Franklin Steiner, The Religious Beliefs of Our Presidents, p. 112, on Dr. Josiah G Holland, later editor of Scribner’s Monthly, having spent only two weeks interviewing Lincoln’s friends before preparing his Biography, in which Holland fabricated accounts of Lincoln’s piety

Herndon: Threw Religious Book on Table

“No one of Lincoln’s old acquaintances in this city ever heard of his conversion to Christianity by Dr. Smith or anyone else. It was never suggested nor thought of here until after his death…. I never saw him read a second of time in Dr. Smith’s book on Infidelity. He threw at down upon our table — spit upon it as it were — and never opened it to my knowledge.”
William Herndon, quoted in Franklin Steiner, The Religious Beleifs of Our Presidents, p. 124

Field: Entirely Deficient in Reverence

“Mr. Lincoln was entirely deficient in what the phrenologists call reverence [veneration]…. I was once in Mr. Lincoln’s company when a sectarian controversy arose. He himself looked very grave, and made no observation until all the others had finished what they had to say. Then with a twinkle of the eye he remarked that he preferred the Episcopalians to every other sect, because they are equally indifferent to a man’s religion and his politics.”
Maunsell B Field, from Memories of Many Men, quoted from Franklin Steiner, The Religious Beleifs of Our Presidents, p. 137

Nelson: Same Opinion as Ingersoll

“In religion, Mr. Lincoln was about of the same opinion as Bob Ingersoll, and there is no account of his ever having changed. He went to church a few times with his family while he was President, but so far as I have been able to find out, he remained an unbeliever. Mr. Lincoln in his younger days wrote a book, in which he endeavored to prove the fallacy of the plan of salvation and the divinity of Christ.”
Judge James M Nelson, who had an intimate acquaintance with Lincoln in Washington, in the Louisville Times, in 1887, quoted from Franklin Steiner, The Religious Beleifs of Our Presidents, p. 137

World: Partially Concealed Infidel, Not a Christian

“While it may be fairly said that Mr. Lincoln entertained many Christian sentiments, it cannot be said that he was himself a Christian in faith or practice. He was no disciple of Jesus of Nazareth. He did not believe in his divinity and was not a member of his Church.
     “He was at first a writing Infidel of the school of Paine and Volney, and afterwards a talking Infidel of the school of Parker and Channing….
     “If the Churches had grown cold — if the Christians had taken a stand aloof — that instant the Union would have perished. Mr. Lincoln regulated his religious manifestations accordingly. He declared frequently that he would do anything to save the Union, and among the many things he did was the partial concealment of his individual religious opinions. Is this a blot upon his fame? Or shall we all agree that it was a conscientious and patriotic sacrifice?”
The New York World (about 1875), quoted from Franklin Steiner, The Religious Beleifs of Our Presidents, pp. 138-39

Globe: Tad’s ‘Bible’ is a Photo Album

“The pretty little story about the picture of President Lincoln and his son Tad reading the Bible is now corrected for the one-hundredth time. The Bible was Photographer Brady’s picture album, which the President was examining with his son while some ladies stood by. The artist begged the President to remain quiet, and the picture was taken. The truth is better than fiction, even if its recital conflicts with a pleasing theory.”
The Boston Globe, quoted in Franklin Steiner, The Religious Beliefs of Our Presidents, p. 139

Speed: Cautious Not to Offend Christians

“He was very cautious never to give expression to any thought or sentiment that would grate harshly upon a Christian’s ear.”
Joshua Speed, explaining at least some of Lincoln’s extremely careful choice of language that was later used by Christians in attempts to “prove” Lincoln’s Christian piety, in Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln, quoted from A W Furches, personal letter to Cliff Walker (January 10, 2002)

Britannica: Far Removed from the Dogmatist

“The measure of his difference from most of the men who surrounded him is best gauged by his attitude toward the fundamentals of religion. For all his devotion to his cause he did not allow himself to believe that he knew the mind of God with regard to it. He was never so much the mystic as in his later days and never so far removed from the dogmatist. Here was the final flowering of that mood which appears to have lain at the back of his mind from the beginning — his complete conviction of a reality of a supernatural world joined with a belief that it was too deep for man to fathom. His refusal to accept the ‘complicated’ statement of doctrines which he rejected, carried with it a refusal to predicate the purpose of the Almighty. Again, that singular characteristic, his power to devote himself wholly to a cause and yet to do so in such a detached, unviolent way that one is tempted to call it passionless. He retained nothing of the tribal forms of religion and was silent when they raged about him with a thousand tongues.
Encyclopædia Britannica, 14th ed., quoted in Franklin Steiner, The Religious Views of Our Presidents, p. 139-40



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